But there is a far more interesting story that grabbed my attention.
As a Catholic writer, the opening scene established it for me. The story quickly establishes that the UglyDolls are stopped from ever having the opportunity to fulfill their basic life’s purpose: to make children happy.
Perhaps it is because I am Catholic that I can’t help but see the connection between these adorable dolls and unwanted children. “UglyDolls”, from all perspectives, is discussing our disposable and throw-away culture.
On the surface, the film really stresses that everyone has a fault and that we should embrace those faults because they make us special.
But the nature of the UglyDolls actually plays up an extremely pro-life message. The UglyDolls stand out against the dolls from the Land of Perfection. Instantly recognized as being somehow lesser, they only desire to find a family to love them. Instead, the companies that created them and the dolls of Perfection want to throw them away. Rather than allow them to live in UglyVille, a makeshift town made by its residents, the leader of Perfection wants to secretly dispose of them.
The UglyDolls remind the perfect dolls about uncomfortable truths, bringing out the darker side of the nice dolls’ natures.
As a film, there are some things lacking. Starring primarily pop stars, the film has a bit of an execution issue. There are jokes in the script. I would have enjoyed these jokes on paper. But the voice actors aren’t necessarily trained actors. There are far too many lines that are delivered as duds.
Structurally, like an UglyDoll, there are some pacing and design issues. Scenes sometimes are stretched for time. The minor characters are one-dimensional. For a while, this really bugged me. I kept on hearing the sad trumpet in my head every time a joke landed flat. But Absury and her team really landed the thing that makes “UglyDolls” into a good movie: it has heart.
It takes a lot for me to ignore the brand power behind a movie named after a set of toys. The only series that really made me appreciate the impact of a piece of merchandise was “The Lego Movie”, and that’s only because the movie is extremely well made. But by the end of “UglyDolls,” I really choked up.
Because the film never ignored its central concept, the value and dignity of the individual, the movie made its characters more than simply toys. It didn’t matter that I didn’t really laugh throughout. Some of the kids around me did. Kids are the core audience and that’s what mattered. But I did feel something honest and real. For a movie trying to sell a merchandised doll, that’s an accomplishment.
“UglyDolls,” like its subject matter, is a flawed film. Its edges are frayed. Its proportions are way off at times. But it also bares its soul and allows itself to be vulnerable. While the “Avengers: Endgame” train will continue to steamroll its way through the weekend, “UglyDolls” is a fantastic opportunity to breathe out and deal with real issues in a fun and musical way.